WHY DO WE CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING?

Thanksgiving actually began as an annual holiday during the Lincoln presidency. The 1621 Pilgrim feast inspired passionate patriot and magazine editor Sarah Hale to lobby all over the country to make it a national holiday some 200 years later. She went so far as to publish recipes for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie in her magazine even though these foods had little connection to the first celebration. She succeeded in her mission. Lincoln approved it as a federal holiday in 1863.

Can we get back to the original reason behind thanksgiving...to say thank you for the blessings in our lives!
Can we get back to the original reason behind thanksgiving…to say thank you for the blessings in our lives!

Did you know the feast of 1621 shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans was a part of ongoing celebrations of gratitude? The Pilgrims made a regular habit of celebrating “thanksgivings” consisting of days of prayer and expressing thanks to God for their blessings. 

Have you know of anyone who prays for days before Thanksgiving? Sadly, these days it feels like our Thanksgiving prayers look like this:

God, please make sure I don’t blow up the turkey.”
“God, I hope I can get through the shopping line without hurting anyone.”
“God, can we get through the holiday without fighting?”

Shall we start a movement in 2017 to revive the spirit of the 1621 feast and focus on our blessings? Use these three ways to practice gratitude and celebrate this wonderful holiday with purpose and meaning:

Wall of gratitude. Place a stack of sticky notes in a basket with colorful markers. Ask household members to answer these questions on the sticky note. Post them on a wall or window in a common area. Feel free to add to list. Take down the sticky notes on Thanksgiving. Read your notes out loud.

Why do I celebrate Thanksgiving?
What does Thanksgiving mean to me?
What am I most grateful for?
What is my favorite Thanksgiving memory?

Bowl of thanks. Cut up paper into pieces about half the size of an index card. Grab a pen and write down one answer on each paper. Fold in half and put in a bowl. Feel free to add questions. Put the bowl on the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Read your notes out loud.

What is my greatest blessing? 
Why am I a gift to the world? 
What does gratitude look like for me? 
What is my favorite Thanksgiving ritual?

Write a Thanksgiving prayer or poem. Who doesn’t love a handmade prayer? Keep it simple and include three to five sentences that focus on these ideas or whatever words come into your heart. Read your prayer before mealtime. Make copies and share with friends and family. 

a blessing that happened this year
a person for whom you are grateful
a wish for what you hope this Thanksgiving will be for you and the world
a hope for a beautiful Thanksgiving 2017

May this Thanksgiving be the start of many years of living through the eyes of gratitude. 

WHAT IS A HEALTHY COUPLES’ RELATIONSHIP?

“Kat and Bill” have hit a wall in their relationship and decide to reach out for professional help with a coach. Their conversations always turn into a fight. Tension is in the air even when it’s quiet. Bill discloses to their coach that they’re merely going through the motions when they are together. It is all very blah. After a few years of feeling bored, tired and empty Kat and Bill realize they want something more. Can this relationship be saved?

Couples' coaching opens the doors to establishing fresh perspectives on what it means to love and commit to another.
Couples’ coaching opens the doors to establishing fresh perspectives on what it means to love and commit to another.

Yes!  While I could write pages on this topic, I’ll focus on four ideas to help Kat and Bill move towards a healthy relationship.

Are they motivated to work on the relationship at 100%?
Kat and Bill show classic signs of a marriage with little investment. They have prioritized other people and activities over their relationship. Kat and Bill need to refocus on what it means to be fully engaged with each other. 

Homework:  To be ready, willing and able to stay 100% present and listen when they interact.

What are the assumptions revolving around their commitment?
Kat and Bill fell into the trap of believing in predictability versus stability. Over time they gave less and less of themselves because they assume their partner isn’t going anywhere. Taking a step back to see what has been accepted as true, without proof, will be useful in re-building connection.

Homework:  To expose and change their mutual assumptions into clear understandings.

What are their shared goals?
Kat and Bill lost sight of what is important to them. They have traded ebb and flow for habits and complacency. Most couples fall in love and forget that commitment is a practice of goals and values. A coach helps couples replace what’s expired and explore what’s desired.

Homework:  To remember why they chose each other, and together to refine/define values such as trust, respect and peace.

What language are they speaking?
Speaking a foreign tongue is confusing and distracting. It becomes challenging to grasp the full context of what someone wants to share. As super sleuths, Kat and Bill must dig deep to uncover their partner’s verbal and non-verbal communication. What words do they consistently use in conversation? Tone of voice? Eye contact? Body gestures? Learn more about having a good conversation.

Homework: To use and speak the same language.

“A couples’ blessing
May you find the light in each other’s eyes. May you find a way to help each other shine. May you find great joy in showing up 100% for your beloved. May you find opportunities to grow strong and loving as a couple. May you find the sacred gifts this relationship offers. 

Make 2018 the year of taking your relationship to the next level.
Here’s to your success! 

CONVERSATIONS BEGIN WITH YOU

What if you could make every conversation an experience?

These days, the art of conversation is more like a microwave meal – it’s easy, quick and may have some taste to it. Don’t you wish there was a way to simmer our dialogues instead of nuking our chit-chats? 

Listen, I’m not advising you to have constant gut-wrenching, soul-shaking, problem-solving exchanges with every phone call, email or text. Kind words and positive intent is the secret sauce behind long-lasting connections, building trust and honoring personal boundaries. 

Create meaningful encounters, big or small, by consistently practicing these 3 useful habits:

Focus

Focus is the bridge that joins you to another in a short period of time. As you walk across the bridge, look on the other side and picture the face of someone with whom you want contact. Let’s say you had two minutes of this person’s time. How would you make the most out of this valuable moment? It is likely you will offer your total attention, come up with key talking points and commit yourself to an effective outcome.  

Affirmation:  “I focus my mind and heart to create happy conversations.”  

Presence

The gift of being fully present with others is truly a gift. In a world of endless distractions, presence feels like a super power possessed by only a few people. Not true! We all have this incredible capability. And believe me, you will reap endless rewards by infusing this small but mighty tool into your relationships.

With audiences, I often make this statement:  

“When someone stands in front of you, ready to listen without distraction and with love, you send out a profound message. Within seconds, the person begins to soften – even melt – right before your eyes. Yes, to behold another from a place of presence is an act of healing.”

Affirmation:  “I am present every time I engage with another in conversation.”

Understanding

Last, but not least, is the ability to meet others from a place of understanding. When you combine focus and presence, you are also saying to someone:  “I am here. I see you. You are safe. You are loved.” Be generous with your understanding. Be open to listening from a place of non-judgment. Tune into the clues and cues you sense from the other. There is so much more to what the person is saying and not saying to you. Don’t you think there’s something to be said about reading between the lines?? Understanding is literally the heart you share beyond the speech.

Affirmation:  “I choose to be understanding in my conversations.”

3 WELLNESS TRENDS TO TRY IN 2018

Wellness contains a set of beliefs and activities promoting optimal living in body, mind and spirit. A wellness lifestyle integrates events, products and people focused on a mindset of healing, recovery and strength. At my company Turning Point, clients seek to become brighter and lighter versions of themselves. They define wellness as connecting to the inner voice to gain freedom, growth and hope.

What is your 2018 definition of wellness?

Make it a year of exploring what it means to feel good from the inside out. Be motivated to prioritize self-care, invest in relationships and practice peace, love and joy to make the world a better place for all. To inspire your heart check out this mash up of wellness trends with exciting tips.

1. Make self-care a routine with hands free moments.

2018 wellness

Let’s face it: the demands of life can distract and stress us out to the max. It is too easy to be consumed by tasks, play with our phones and watch another day go by without rest, creativity and pleasure. Research repeatedly reinforces the power of slowing down to find contentment. Electronic devices are not geared to helping you slow down. They are designed to consume your time, shop without limit and send you into information overload.

Why do we need to wait until we fall apart mentally and physically before we pay attention to ourselves? Why are we so dependent on our devices to serve as a major source of escape versus of walking outside or making dinner from scratch?

Unplug from your devices. For most of us technology plays a major role in our personal lives. We live for texts, posts and messages to keep us in the tech pipeline. The phone is inches away from our hands so we’re not missing out on the latest news. It’s no surprise that social media heavily influences our thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Research on social media reveals that plugging in is quickly evolving into a modern addiction. For example younger generations with developing brains are experiencing increased rates of anxiety and sluggishness due to device dependency. Scientists believe these chemical brain changes places youth at higher risk for depression and suicidal thinking.

A 2018 trend will center on reducing the amount of screen time. This is a popular theme advocated by mental health professionals, corporations and media outlets. Self-care and technology freedom is growing. Free apps such as Moment and Moment Family offer consumers a concrete way of tracking online time and setting limits.

Would you like to reward yourself and Mother Earth for staying off the tech grid? Try an app called Forest. The company partners with an organization that plants a variety of real trees based on the time you spend away from your devices.

2. Invest in relationships with values.

In one word, what did your close relationships look like in 2017? How much drama took place because your relationships felt out of sync and confusing? Are you going through the motions or avoiding people to protect your heart?

The key ingredients of relationships are time, presence and effort. Long-term dynamic relationships make use of shared values to sustain the passing of time, emerging phases and fluctuating circumstances.

A thought-provoking post on thelyfemagazine.com outlined the state of modern relationships. Today’s couples get married for experience instead of survival for two reasons. One is the increased number of women in the workforce who earn their own money and benefits to sustain a single lifestyle. The other reason is individuals are being more selective about being in relationships. They prefer to take their time and find the right match rather than make a choice ending up in divorce.

Experience stable and satisfying relationships. Sit down with your loved ones and discuss what’s important to them. Choose one or two common values such as respect and compassion. Agree to practice them in fun and different ways in the next twelve months. Schedule quality time when you can check in and determine if you’re on track. Consider professional help to hold you accountable and to keep the practice of loving each other active and healthy.

3. Practice peace, love and joy

2018 can be the start of working and living in surroundings reflective of your commitment to peace, love and joy.

A 2016 report on employee safety and engagement states that employers who prefer productivity to well being lost an average of $4.5 billion a year due to high absence rates and low engagement levels. When you think about your workplace do you feel peace, love and joy? If your answer is not really then it may be time for a new adventure.

Your work life has to be more than a time clock and a paycheck. You spend way too much of your time there to compromise your mental health and to take sick days because you’re not motivated.

How can you bring peace, love and joy to work?

Reach out. Connect to an organization that aligns with your goal to promote peace, love and joy. Schedule an event centered on one of these themes. Give it a catchy name like Project Joy. Brainstorm ideas and bring your plan to life. Everyone there will walk away with a memory that lifts the spirit.

Post stories. Put up a board in a common employee area and invite your co-workers to share their aha moments. Add a question like ”What has been the most peaceful day of your life so far?” to the board to stimulate their imaginations.

Organize lunch and learn programs. Center the topics on peace, love and joy. Invite speakers who share insights and practical tips for applying these themes.

More workplace wellness tips

The practice of peace, love and joy is also a personal journey. When we tap into them we deepen our connection to the Divine, fill ourselves with hope and see possibilities. One way of building these ideas into everyday life is through awareness.

For example do you make it a point to recognize when you’re not peaceful? We get so caught up in being right or staying in anger. Pay attention when your heart rate goes up or you feel tense and uneasy. Use forgiveness to shift you back to recovery and balance Walk away and listen to your inner voice. Remind yourself of your commitment to practice peace, love and joy.

WORKPLACE STRESS AND WELLNESS: BE YOUR OWN CHIEF ENERGY OFFICER (CEO)

The World Health Organization singles out stress as the “Health epidemic of the 21st century.” The cost of stress for American businesses is estimated at $300 billion – really,  300 billion $$$ dollars – each year.   

These stresses top their list:

“The cost of stress for American businesses is estimated at $300 billion each year.

*Fear of violence and assault
*Longer and harder work hours
*Absenteeism
*Job insecurity

How do your stresses stack up? 

Close your eyes and imagine yourself arriving at the office. What sensations arise? Anxiety? Anger? Physical Pain? Strength? Contentment? 

Now ask yourself: “How often do I experience workplace stress? In what ways must I honestly acknowledge contributing to my own stress? 

You are the Chief Energy Officer (CEO) of your own workplace. Each day your choices inspire yourself and others. Your state of being powerfully influences the flow of your physical surroundings. Become aware. You need only one powerful reason to be a focused and productive CEO. Now, it’s time to uncover that reason!

  1. Write down a list of your core beliefs and values. 
  2. Look at your own past success stories. 
  3. Think about how you want to contribute to the world, your family, your employer, your friends and community. 
  4. Imagine both one short and one long-term professional goal. 

You will notice themes and patterns in your answers, and from them your mission statement will soon emerge. A mission statement must become your guiding focus and mantra. It speaks to what you intend to accomplish. Define and redefine your mission statement over and over until it perfectly conveys what you intend to create. 

You now are entering the early stage of finding your purpose!

Great real-life mission statements include these:

Oprah Winfrey: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”

Sir Richard Branson: “To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes.”

Nelson Mandela: “To contribute to the making of a just society that remembers its past, listens to all voices, and pursues social justice for all.”

A mission statement:

  • Illuminates a pathway for success.
  • Grants permission to say no to distractions.Is a snapshot of current expectations and provides a road map for achievement. 

Looking for more ways to be a Chief Energy Officer? I am available for workshops at your workplace! 

Key Benefits of Dreaming

Dreams help us live from a place of wonder. Think of the last time you shared your dream aloud. Did you roll your eyes up and use your voice in a way so the right words would come out? Did you put effort into presenting it with clarity, or did you insert doubtful phrases to shut it down out of a false sense of humility? 

Lou told me about his dream of owning a business. Over the years Lou had a recurring dream of feeding people. When he wakes up he feels happy and hopeful. He loves to cook for family and friends, but feels overwhelmed to move past his dream to implement it into a workable plan.

Dreams lift us into extraordinary states of mind to better understand ordinary living.
Dreams lift us into extraordinary states of mind to better understand ordinary living.

Dreams are like snowflakes drifting on air until they land on something solid and accumulate into another form. We marvel at their unique size, shape and color. We catch them on our tongues or hands and feel them melt into water in seconds. As a child I reveled in magical moments of catching snowflakes. 

Dreams come to us for a reason. Like snowflakes dreams hover in our imaginations. They contain energy of wonder and delight. Depending on the power of particular dream thoughts, images and sensations, we hold them for a brief moment and let them dissolve – or they land on something solid so they grow and shape into form. That form is called an idea. 

Dreams involve focus and belief. How many dreams come and go because we don’t think they’re real? When excited about a dream we rush to share them with others. If we don’t write them down in detail, we fear the dream will fade. Dream recall demands we get back into a dream state and focus on its aspects. It invites surrender and a deep-dive into believing its message.

Dreams require exile of doubt and judgment. Recall needs to excite us every time we share our dream so it can move to the next stage. Inserting judgment or doubt chokes a dream’s lifeblood in its infancy. Refrain from saying your dream is silly or inserting any “buts.” Sharing a dream requires confidence and some space to process its meaning.

Dreams are contagious. As a child my mother often told us her dreams around the breakfast table. We listened as she described the scenes. She held our complete attention as we traveled with her to the places and characters who appeared at night. To this day we exchange dreams as a family. I love it when clients bring their dreams to sessions. It is so fun to search for meaning and how they relate to our current situations.

Dreams are inspiring and enlightening. They are gifts to help us understand ourselves and others. Sometimes we need different vocabulary to describe dreams. Here’s what dreams are not:

Fantasies. Fantasy energy is tricky. We go into a state of elevated desire for someone or something. Our brains make up stories. Fantasies grow in size and shape. But we end up feeling frustration, desperation and hopelessness. Fantasies, unlike dreams, don’t come true.

Illusions. The meaning of illusion is a false belief. What appears to be in front of our eyes doesn’t exist in form. Failure awaits when we cross the line and convince ourselves illusion is real. Illusions are the Big Lie. They contort and make impossible to distinguish the real from unreal. Dreams tap into spirit – illusions tap into ego.

Goals. When we journey from dream to idea, goals are the next stage of dream development. Goals continue the exploration of building a form in which others can join in and facilitate creation. Goals offer information about whether or not a dream is worth pursuing and offers value to its original dreamer and the world.

What is your dream?

We all dream – No exceptions! Try this technique developed by Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University’s Lucidity Institute. The MILD technique or Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams is believed to one of the most effective ways to induce lucid dreaming. More on lucid dreaming

This teaching excerpt is from Lucid Dreaming, Plain and Simple written by Robert Waggoner and Caroline McReady:

  1. On a sheet of paper write down a recent dream.
  2. Identify with a large X an appropriate place in your dream story that could have prompted lucid awareness (a strange event, impossible action, odd situation or unlikely place).
  3. Using the X as your starting point, rewrite the dream as if you had become lucid.

For example if you dreamed you were in Central Park and saw an elephant with wings, put an X at that unusual spot in . your dream and proceed to rewrite:

“Seeing an elephant with wings (X) I thought: Wait a second, elephants do not have wings! This must be a dream. Now lucid, I remembered that I wished to fly. I looked around and saw the Empire State Building. I focussed on the top of it and began flying like Superman to the very top. It was cool to look down and see how far I had flown.”

Blessing for Dreamers

“I bless the gift of dreams. May they be a source of healing, teaching and hope for all. May dreams lead the way to ideas to help me grow in peace, love and joy. The Divine is here now and joins me in this blessing. Amen.

HOW TO HEAL

Healing, like medicine, has no single definition.  Scientists measure it in myriad ways. I believe healing has three dimensions: body, mind and spirit. The body encounters sickness over the course of a lifetime, ranging from common colds to chronic illnesses. Some types last hours and others years. The journey to healing may involve internet searches and interventions and professionals. Most of the time we rely on rational answers. 

Our intuitive selves play a minor part in collecting information. Physical healing involves a short-lived period of gratitude at the marvel of our capacity to recover and return to a new normal.

To understand healing of the mind, we need to be open to the complexities that show up.  First, emotions flood us with information which require us to sort out fact from illusion. Next,we need to decipher if the reasonable part of us is speaking loud enough to guide our way or if the irrational part is sabotaging our efforts. Third, we look at our behavior for clues to figure out how the mind directs our actions and interactions with others. We seek out professionals and medicine to push past the shadows, guilt and persistent fears plaguing our thoughts. 

Our intuitive selves may feel as non-existent as our voice. At times we get overwhelmed and lost by over-analyzing scenarios and details. At best, mind healing may not include a complete recovery but moments of ease when we can breathe easier and feel freedom from our mental dramas.

Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. - Sai Baba
Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. – Sai Baba

If we allow ourselves to explore the spirit dimension with precedence to the body and mind, the pathway may lead us to deeper and more lasting healing. In this scenario our intuitive selves and life experiences take a front seat. As key players invested in lifting us up and out of suffering, intuition and experiences offer insights normally covered up by the external forces who define healing for us.

Where do we start with spiritual healing? Consider these five steps as your guide.

Accept dialogue may be slow and quiet at first.
When we have been the dictator of our lives and use control as a mechanism for managing our wellness, intuition will need coaxing and quiet time to tap into its infinite wisdom. Once initiated, the voice attunes itself to find and care for its highest and best self. Truth prevails as barriers to healing disappear.

Orient beliefs and energy towards true desire for healing.
We cannot mix desire with wishy washy beliefs. Energy doesn’t know how to align itself in two directions so its default will go towards the stronger belief. Usually it means the negative self-talk wins for that is what is most familiar to us. Without clarity and a resolve to stick to getting rid of old beliefs, wounds will linger and take on other unhealthy forms.

Read: What Do you Believe In?

Express curiosity.
Asking questions doesn’t mean we are judgmental and forgot our way to healing. Curiosity signals the inner self to seek out an objective answer to re-align and restore ourselves. Inner movement seeks possibilities when we ask ourselves “What truly matters?” from an authentically inquisitive place.   Curiosity gives us the opportunity to hone in our intuitive instincts. Then we have the capability to stare at resistance right between the eyes and use resilience to see our light not our limits. Then we make peace with the mystery and head towards humility and understanding. 

Return to love.
When we can go inside ourselves and find love we find healing too. When we extend compassion to our compromised parts we soften and make way for new energy to enter into the space. When we undo the ego that prefers to focus on suffering our spirit stays strong and on course.

Surrender body and mind.
It’s so easy to give pain the upper hand when we struggle.  It’s so easy to act as a victim, worry, complain and be angry at ourselves. It’s so easy to turn into short-tempered and self-centered beings. It’s so easy to take our problems out on the world and act out from a place of despair and loneliness. When these sneaky triggers occur, hand them over to the Divine for proper disposal. Power up your connection to your spirit and passionately remind yourself of your mission for healing.

SELF-CARE: FRIEND OR FOE?

Self-care is a topic near and dear to my heart. We have been both bitter enemies and close friends. Self-care has hunted me down to make me pay attention. After a long and humbling battle with prioritizing self-care, I have witnessed its profound effect. Self-care allows me to grow into a thriving and joyful person.

A survivor dreams of the ocean. A thriver makes it happen.
A survivor dreams of the ocean. A thriver makes it happen.

Here is a mash-up of self-care explanations found on the internet: “Self-care is a series of activities promoting the well-being of the body, mind, emotions and spirit. It’s purpose is to practice wellness activities to boost mood and reduce stress.”

Stress, among the leading causes of death in America, has become our go-to response when we are afraid or unsure of how to deal with someone or something. We go to doctors for prescriptions, seek therapy for relief, and even prefer to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs and poor choices. When the rhythm of stress has reached fever-pitched blaring, it’s time to shut it down. Tune in instead to the gentle harmony of self-care.

Isn’t it time we:

  • Lift ourselves out of survival mode and devote our efforts to thriving?
  • Refuse to let stress dominate our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits?
  • Reclaim our stories and shape them to what matters most?
  • Listen for signals of our inner voice so we can make better choices?
  • Empower ourselves to cope with stress and life’s curveballs by using healthy and appropriate coping tools?

Put another way, if self-care were an employees’ union, we would never put up with the abuse that stress dishes out on a regular basis. We would strike on the streets, sign petitions and march up to our bosses shouting, “Enough’s enough. We deserve better treatment. We require more perks to protect ourselves and our families.” Learn about workplace stress.

Here’s a breakdown of self-care through the eyes of a life survivor versus the lens of a thriver. Survivors go through the motions of day-to-day living. Thrivers seek growth, possibilities and success. After you read through the list, which voice do you hear most these days?

Body

Survivor: “The idea of exercising stresses me out. I prefer to be a stressed out person than go out in public and workout. Plus I don’t have time to go to the gym.”

Thriver: “Moving my body everyday makes a big difference in how flexible it is. I believe working out will strengthen my body in healthy ways for years to come. Exercise will prevent my body from taking hard hits when illness comes along.”

Mind

Survivor: “My brain has so many open tabs. I don’t know how to close them. I cannot calm down. Self-care is selfish. I can’t possibly care for myself when others demand my time and energy. Lately, it’s hard to sleep because my thoughts have nowhere to go.”

Thriver: “My thoughts come and go. If a thought bothers me for more than 24 hours, I need to figure out what it will take to think about it another way. I won’t let my thoughts block me from resting and enjoying myself. Self-care gives me the break I need to gain strength and feel good”

Emotions

Survivor: “My emotions look like a tornado. They are wild and out-of-control because I don’t know how to deal with pressure. I don’t know how to process new information. After the storm subsides I remain exhausted.

I feel guilty if I put myself first. How can I take a few minutes to wind down when my family needs my full attention?”

Thriver: “I take time to relax. I find activities which make me feel good.  I share my emotions and don’t keep them bottled up. Exploding emotions are throttled. I focus instead on staying emotionally fit for myself and others.  Self-care fuels love and compassion toward myself and in my relationships.“

Spirit

Survivor: “My spirit has lost its bounce. Stress has taken over my body, mind and emotions – blinding me to how to care for my spiritual needs. What’s the use? I’m not in touch with what my soul longs for and desires.

Thriver: “My spirit connects to peace, love and joy. I center myself around principles and live according to my mission and values. Life rewards me with wonder, appreciation and harmony. I choose to radiate this amazing energy with the world.”

SARCASM: WHAT IT IS

The popularity of sarcasm in everyday life is undeniable. We see it on t-shirts, commercials and TV shows. It’s found on websites and Facebook pages. Webster’s states the English word sarcasm has been in use since the mid-1600s. Its origin stems from the Greek verb “Sarkazein” meaning to “tear flesh like a dog and the noun “ Sarkasmos,” “a sneering or hurtful remark.” Although sarcasm is a humor type, it is generally regarded as the lowest form of wit. Humor and Sarcasm

Why do you use sarcasm? 
Why do you use sarcasm? 

Sarcasm has its purpose. A modern definition states that sarcasm is “The use of words which are the opposite of what is actually intended – especially in order to insult, to show irritation, or to be funny.” For those who regularly employ sarcasm, they are often looking for a laugh at someone else’s expense. Sarcasm can be dramatic or funny, as well as a way to disguise straightforward criticism or disapproval. 

Example: “Gosh, did you really wake up and decide that outfit makes you look good?” This off-hand remark can seem funny. However, might a sliver of honesty be lurking between the lines?  The speaker is perhaps using sarcasm to hide distaste for what is interpreted as a bad clothing choice. At the same time, a lack of nerve to state their truth leaches through.

Sarcasm requires deciphering intent. Is the speaker attempting humor, being intentionally offensive, aggressive or anger-provoking? Sarcasm is muddy communication. The listener is obliged to pause, attempt to determine truth and comprehend the intended point. Our brains zoom into overdrive trying to translate the “message behind the message.” 

Besides spoken words, a listener scans for clues in body language, tone of voice and facial gestures. Is there a change in the speaker’s voice, a smirk, raised eyebrows or eye rolling? If the conversation is by text or phone, we may go into overdrive to translate the speaker’s intentions – or miss them entirely.

Example: “Gosh, did you really wake up and decide that outfit makes you look good?” It takes additional time for the brain to process doublespeak. Hearts are inclined toward connection and sincerity. In this instance, the heart likely dives into protection mode and shuts down – attempting to make sense of mixed signals. If sarcasm is used aggressively, the mind hooks up with the heart to better ascertain what’s really going on.

Sarcasm crosses boundaries. Aside from hidden meanings and bad intention, sarcasm stirs anxiety and depression. If the speaker frequently uses it, the listener may develop distress when they’re together. It’s confusing to know where they stand and how the speaker truly feels. The participants no longer bond or resonate in their interactions.

A defeatist attitude may develop. When sarcasm becomes predictable, new boundaries are required. It takes time for connections to recover and repair themselves in sarcastic-driven relationships.  Trust and safety have been compromised. The relationship is in peril, and true intentions are subverted. A power struggle is often the behind-the-scenes culprit. 

Example: “Gosh, did you really wake up and decide that outfit makes you look good?” If the listener hears this comment on a regular basis, self-esteem is impacted. The speaker may unintentionally use sarcasm as a way to gain power.  It may be completely unconscious, but it’s still not okay. What’s happening is more insidious and destructive than either participant acknowledges. 

Sarcasm crosses cultural lines. Sarcasm contains many shapes and forms. Certain cultures have less appreciation for it than others. Nuance doesn’t work when we don’t know another person well. Sarcasm is unreliable communication. In order to ‘get’ the message, all parties must share a common understanding. Clear, direct language opens channels and allows easy flow of ideas.

Example: “Gosh, did you really wake up and decide that outfit makes you look good?” Without a clear understanding of body language, facial gestures and which words are being stressed, the listener may simply respond with a yes answer and walk away from the speaker. The question in this instance has been interpreted 100% literally.

Want to free yourself from sarcasm?

Practice healthy communication without sarcasm. Listen and respond with genuine kindness. Every human has the right to be heard with understanding. Don’t pretend to listen. Carefully consider the topic and pause before you speak. 

Sarcasm is a habit. Pay attention to your words and attitude. Use your heart to help translate meaning before judging what is being shared. Stay on the path of connection and flow rather than the need to be right and having the final word.

Make it a goal to be clear with your words, body language, tone of voice and facial gestures. Mixed messages result in mixed results. Notice how you interact with people you like and those you don’t. How do you act? What words do you use? How do you feel after the conversation? Come up with ideas which allow you to stay consistent and steady regardless of who is with you.

Replace sarcasm with wit or irony. If you enjoy sharing humor, search for techniques which promote comfort and well-being with others rather than bringing out confrontational behaviors.

When unsure, you may ask someone if they are being sarcastic and why. Before you reach the last straw and walk out, say something like: “Help me to understand your comment. Why do you question my choice to wear this outfit?”

SPEAK UP

Harassment and sexual assaults in the workplace dominate today’s news headlines. It has become a never-ending cascade of revelations blaring abuse of power accusations. It is disturbing to learn of the many high profile producers, stars and TV news anchors who have misused their power and influence.  Each story offers us the same important invitation: “Speak up, speak truth and demand accountability .” Read: How to Tell Your Story.

"Speak up because the day you don't speak up for the things that matter to you is the day your life truly ends."    - unknown
“Speak up because the day you don’t speak up for the things that matter to you is the day your life truly ends.”    – unknown

The importance to speak out can be applied beyond moments of violence, assault and harassment. Before we find strength in talking about these bigger issues, we must first flex our vocal muscles in everyday encounters. When we are able to speak from a place of calmness, clarity and confidence we build the courage and resilience to manage our other relationships in healthy ways.

How do we speak up? 

Let’s understand that emotional responses -our own and others – provide valuable  information. They are, however, not a platform from which to communicate. Otherwise, we will end up regretting how we handle conversations in the “heat” of the moment. Maintaining  “equilibrium within” allows us the chance to slow down and find a “measured place” versus ramping up negative energy leading to a blowout. 

We don’t have to mimic others in the same way they express themselves. The beauty of listening with the heart – not from the head that wants to interrupt and take over – is an increased ability to sort out and tune into the message behind the words and gestures. In this way we maintain power and dignity, as well as find inner guidance to provide us the necessary clear words and non-combative energy. 

Speaking up requires getting in touch with what we value most: our own true selves. When our egos get in the way, we cannot be genuinely compassionate and understanding. Conversations instead revolve around winning and attacking others. We can’t see the bigger picture of why we committed to this partner, friend and co-worker. We lean towards subjecting our dearest friend or associate to our rage, judgment and bad feelings.

Speaking up is synonymous with showing up. The practice of life is about moving forward, falling down and getting up again. We reach for tools like curiosity, wonder and excitement as fuel. Another powerful tool is to be present – not flee – in times of pain, crisis, conflict and struggle. It is so tempting to walk away from discomfort and confrontation. But if we can fuse and focus our minds and hearts to seek solutions, the outcome will predictably be better every time. 

What if we don’t speak up?

When we withhold truth and forgiveness we feel lost and out of sorts. We may even subconsciously see ourselves as weak. Our self-worth begins to deteriorate slowly but surely. All parties will lack a coherent understanding of how to move forward. 

If negativity persists perceptions about the “state of the relationship” take over. Once judged as thriving, it’s now barely surviving. During gaps between conversations, unhealthy choices and behaviors insert themselves. Sadly, they offer phony solutions to the changed and radically altered circumstances. 

Examples:

Rather than take a step back to reflect and get a fresh take on a situation, we avoid. Avoidance might look something like:

  • We schedule commitments so we don’t have to interact with the other person;
     
  • We take on new projects so we can claim we don’t have time to meet up and talk for more than five minutes;
     
  • We swap-out existing priorities with ones which keep us invisible, distracted and distant.

Substance-use is common for many seeking relief from the intensity of speaking up. They mentally anticipate the worst or more of the same, and so they self-medicate their anxiety and depression. Some even tell themselves they do a better job of expressing and managing feelings while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The silent treatment is a course of inaction wherein nobody wins. The one initiating silence harbors negative emotions, and is overwhelmed and uncertain about their future role in the relationship. Other communication may have been attempted without satisfaction.  For the one on the receiving end, this draining tactic supplies no feedback or resolution plan.

Who doesn’t like to complain and gossip when they are hurting or confused? For some reason, we want to be right all the time. Most people use gossiping and complaining as a primary mechanism for feeling better about themselves. If our adversarial partner/friend/co-worker doesn’t agree with us or we have reached an unfortunate impasse in the relationship, we look to the outside “world” to justify our position.

Although we inhabit a social landscape where gossiping and complaining is a typical behavior, it is a poor choice. It erodes trust and creates unnecessary hurt and suffering. It’s one thing to seek out professional help to deal with a situation or learn communication techniques. But if we’re in the business of telling people how wrong someone is, making up false stories or picking on someone in public, we are heading for troubled waters.

Where to go from here?

  1. Identify your feelings without judgment of the person as best you can.
     
  2. Prioritize your agenda. If you are able to communicate just one thing, consider it a good day. Two things? It’s a great day. 
     
  3. Set a time limit for a discussion and focus on one or two topics at most.
     
  4. Formulate a simple and achievable action plan.

What words can we use in tough times?

Hurting: “I am not okay.”  “I am hurting.”  Something doesn’t feel right.”

Confused: “Help me understand.” “Can you say it another way?”

Shocked/Surprised: “I need a minute before I can respond.” Breathe or touch your toes. The chemicals in your brain respond, and can quickly return you to a calm place. 

Screaming*: Put physical distance between you and the other person. Remain calm and quiet; try not to shutdown but to stand in a confident stance. Use your eyes to tell the other person you are listening, but are confused at the outburst. After the person is done speaking, try these options:

“Can we regroup in an hour? I need time to respond to what you’ve said.”

“Please don’t talk to me this way. I really want to hear what you have to say and that tone of voice overwhelms me.”

“I’m going to walk away if you don’t stop yelling. Your behavior doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel safe.”

“Why are you yelling? I better understand when you speak with a lower tone of voice.”

“I don’t feel safe and need a minute.” 

*Call a trusted friend or 9-1-1 if you need help.